It is difficult to overestimate the staggering effect the printing press had on civilization and our western culture. Since listening the The Middle Ages lectures, I found this website explaining how printing arose and spread an absorbing read. The atlas itself is fun to mess around with.
While few records remain pertaining to the daily operations of the early printing workshops of 1450-1500, it is possible to reconstruct a general picture. Early printing was a complex process involving many different kinds of materials and skills. In order to print written material on paper, a printer needed to create or obtain type, compose the text by arranging the type into lines of words, placing the arranged type onto a wooden press, and using this intricate mechanism to apply pressure on the inked type to impress it into dampened paper. Print shops housed one or many presses, depending on the size of the operation, with each press requiring two pressmen for optimal production. The variety of tasks called for many workers, including typefounders, typesetters or compositors, ink makers, and printers. It is estimated that the work day consisted of 12-14 hours of grueling physical labor under poor conditions in comparison to current standards. Estimations about printing output vary, but it is thought that 300 sheets or 600 folio pages could be printed in a shop each day. In addition to books, print shops printed ephemera, including broadsides and indulgences. [More]As I drool over a Kindle to take over my reading mechanics, it is hard not to wonder if the ol' printing press is slip-sliding away.